Clint Wilson brilliantly explained the nefarious influence of neoliberal technocratic thinking on the discipline of English and its recent drift toward corporatism (fed by faculty and adminstrators alike). This photograph shows only one of the many inventive slides Clint used to lay bare and undo the instrumentalist logics circulating within the neoliberal university today. He paid particularly close attention to how these logics redouble at the level of syllabi, teaching, faculty research, and funding decisions.
Rodrigo Martini Paula's presentation offered a crash course on the perverse and all-too-telling resemblance of taxidermic practices and philosophies to the scientistic disposition in the era of the ersatz. Focusing on the philosophies of taxidermy espoused by narrators in early-twentieth-century surrealist literature, Rodrigo uncovered how a misogynistic and violent discourse subtends the modern scientistic preoccupation with obtaining complete knowledge of the natural world (through often instrumentalist means).
Alex Adkins presented on the topic of "privilege politics." He argued that although the identity-political discourse of privilege initially emerged from important concerns about various forms of systemic inequality, today it leads to self-righteous, narcisstistic, sadistic, atomistic, anti-systemic, and religious forms of persecution offered in the name of progressivism.
Natali Leduc, our IT consultant for the conference, sparked our imaginations with a dazzling performance art piece that satirized the increasing imbrication of humans with technology in the era of the ersatz. In this photo, Natali demonstrates her methodology--literalization sprinkled with farce--by depicting on an old-school projector her fascination and experimentation with a rhizome, a popular yet much misunderstood concept in the dense philosophical writings of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.
On May 5th, 2017, Dr. Aaron Jaffe spoke of the Statue of Liberty (among other significant cultural and political icons). For him, the colossal, neoclassical piece circulates as a nationalist idiom, one that has captured the global imagination since the 1860s. By drawing on the work of Vilem Flusser, a Czech-born philosopher who published in four languages, Dr. Jaffe emphasized the importance of media theory for understanding how cultural objects proliferate multiple meanings, many of which speak to past and contemporary anxieties about immigration, cosmopolitanism, and exile.
On May 4th, 2017, we deposed Tom McCarthy for 45 minutes. To our surprise, entertainment, and horror, the subject in question spoke of materialism's relationship to aesthetics. How, Mr. McCarthy asked, might we learn to read and see the realm of the aesthetic--and of the literary--outside the instrumentalist logics that characterize the era of the ersatz?